Thursday, March 27, 2008

Pod Sex

An addendum to my post on Finney's Body Snatchers: I neglected to note that Finney's novel is the only version of the material that specifies the sexual habits of the duplicated beings, or "pod people." In particular, the pod people do not sexually reproduce at all, according to the book. I think this is a critical aspect of Finney's narrative and central argument. Because if you don't feel some form of emotion, why would you make love? In a sense, I think that Finney is saying that emotions - love in particular - are the things that drive us to perpetuate the species and reproduce. If you take emotion out of our genetic equation, the human race dies. This eventuality seems borne out in the life cycle of the pods: without the capacity to reproduce, their duplicated bodies die out after five years, and the parasitic seeds must seek more "fertile" (if you'll pardon the expression) terrain on other worlds.

I thought this was worth mentioning in light of the fact that virtually every cinematic incarnation of Body Snatchers involves some sort of love relationship gone awry. We have divorcees Becky and Miles in the 1950s version -- both the products of failed marriages. We have unhappily married Elizabeth attracted to Bennell in the 1978 take, and her husband is one of the parasites. Even the latest version, in 2007, lands a female Bennell (Nicole Kidman) in a failed marriage and seeking love with another suitor (Daniel Craig). The romantic love relationship - this passionate, connection to a human being - is always the "thing" that is in danger of being lost in the films, though (for better or worse...) The Invasion adds the element of parental love. But more than that when we get to it.

Tomorrow: "Are You Now or Have You Ever Been: Invasion 1956."


  1. Anonymous12:51 PM

    “Love in particular - are the things that drive us to perpetuate the species and reproduce.”

    Do you think all those cats in your front yard are the result of love relationships?

    Or what about historical and sociological scholarship that suggest that Love had very little to do with human reproduction in the past?


  2. Okay RC:

    Bring it on!

    I wasn't writing about cats and the drives of cats, now was I?

    No, I was writing about human beings - contemporary human beings (not human beings of the distant past; when there were different biological imperatives).

    And I was noting that an author, Jack Finney, seemed to be building an argument linking human emotions to the success (success= reproduction) of the species. He was balancing that against an emotionless species that did not reproduce.

    With your comment on "historical and sociological scholarship," you sound like Manny Kauffman.

    I have to ask, Muffin Man, are you a pod? :)

    Did you read the book you bastard? (I ask, actually, because I do think you'd have a lot to add the discussion of it. I'd love to see your thoughts on what you think Finney is stating about the human condition.)


  3. Oh I forgot, RC:

    if you want to drop over, you can borrow my copy of Finney's novel. It's a quick read, actually...

    I really would be curious to see what your communist take on it is...I'd even let you publish it on the blog (with a disclaimer that I am not a commie.)


  4. Anonymous3:08 PM

    You are right, I have not read the book, but I’m bored and I am guessing that you are probably ready to engage in a conversation that doesn’t include “poopy diapers” and teething, - so here goes.

    I would not say that these non-love mating relationships were necessarily in the distant past.

    But first, I guess we should operationalize our definitions somewhat. I imagine we are talking about “romantic love” or as you put it “this passionate, connection to a human being”. Disregarding, at the moment, the love that is characterized by comfort, security, and companionship, lets focus on the love that’s characterized by passion and excitement. If this is the definition we are exploring, “romantic love” emerges as late as the 13th century but not correlating necessarily with a sexual relationship. People would often be married to one individual and reproduce with them, but, at least within certain social groups, would be romantically and emotionally involved with another whom they were not having sexual relations. Since the social and economic structures played such a strong role in who people were married to, reproduction of the species often had very little to do with who you were emotionally attached to. I guess what I’m driving at is that humans can be made to reproduce by other motivators outside emotional connections to one another. For example, duty, either in a religious or cultural context, or by a socializing force that tells you that you are abnormal if you don’t have kids at a certain age. The environment can be arranged in ways to make people do all sorts of things. I guess my fundamental disorientation to a couple of your sentences has to do more with my sociological training then anything else. For example, when you say “If you take emotion out of our genetic equation, the human race dies,” many sociologists would argue that emotions depend more upon socialization then genetic makeup. Our interpersonal relationships throughout the life-course are more significant than biological determinants in developing passionate relationships between or among human beings.

    Your review makes me want to read the book and from your summery it sounds that you are accurately pulling out the themes of “alienation” that Finney is intending. After reading your comments on divorce, I have to agree that right before my own- I had thought that my ex-wife was a pod person. I have also had some experiences in the last couple of years where I will be walking down the hall or road and have felt that people all around me were “pod-people”, at least completely disconnected from their surroundings because of I-pods or other contraptions in their ears. Also, if you are the only one that is not a pod person, it is easy to see where someone may diagnose you as being schizophrenic. -> “the problem is inside you”.

    I imagine if I were to read the book, we may only differ on some of the root causes of how pod-people emerge in the first place. I don’t suppose I would see their genetic makeup as the cause so much as their social environment. Or perhaps I would just use my own lens to construct metaphors in the story that aligned with my own understanding of the world. For example, I may use the quote by the psychologist: “think about it, and get it into your head, and you'll know the trouble is inside you”, to make a sociological point. I suppose the author is using the antagonist here to make the point that although we are often told that our problems are rooted inside us, they often emerge because of -either how our environments are constructed, or by our interpersonal relationships. (Some disagreements here between psychology and sociology) Anyway, I cannot talk specifically about any of this, so I will go out and read the book now and get back to you.


  5. Anonymous3:19 PM

    I just got your second comment.

    Yes, I’ll drop by tomorrow for a minute on the way home and pick the book up – thanks.